I love my husband, but I must admit that I may have married anyone just to marry into his family. I adore them all, but Grammy in particular. Bryan’s paternal grandmother is the most amazing woman that I have ever met. Family means everything to her and she doesn’t let anything come between her and her family. She came to Mexico with Bryan and I in the summer of 2010, did shots with everyone at a cousin’s 30th birthday party, tailgates for Tulane football and during a certain Journey concert may have had a few too many bourbon and waters; how many grandmothers do you know that would do that? Grammy’s grandmother, affectionately called “Momo” was from Sicilly and taught Grammy how to cook the Italian way; Grammy in turn has passed along many of these traditions to her children and grandchildren.
We have made many fond memories together but one of my favorites is the year that we all gathered in my in-laws kitchen and Grammy taught us how to make her usual Good Friday feast. When her children, my father-in-law Bryan Sr (Pops) and his sister Kim, were young Grammy’s father owned a fish market in what is now Central City New Orleans (on the corner of S. Galvez and Third Streets). Since a vast majority of the folks living in New Orleans are of the Catholic faith Fridays were busy in the fish market during Lent, especially Good Friday. So while the rest of the family worked the market supplying the city it’s traditional meatless fare Grammy was at home preparing her family’s traditional feast. When everyone finally gathered around the table that evening they were greeted with Pasta Milanese, tuna, peas and carrots topped with biscuits, eggs poached in peas, pasta with red gravy and all manner of fresh fish and local seafood. The red gravy recipe is one that I have used over and over again for everything from pastas to redfish courtboullion to eggs in purgatory, eggplant parmesan and topping pizzas. It is such a great base that I make sure there is aways some in the freezer I know that you will love it as much as I do.
In New Orleans we call anything you pour over something a gravy. I asked the experts – Grammy and Pops- what the difference was between gravy and sauce and we couldn’t come up with a good explanation. We’re a funny bunch down here. What do you consider the difference between the two?
Grammy's Red Gravy
Yield: I get 3 quart (24oz) sized Mason jars of sauce, you can get slightly more or less depending on how long you let this cook
Cook Time: 3 hours
Bryan’s paternal grandmother taught me this recipe. Grammy is an amazing cook and uses this recipe as her base for anything with red sauce (spaghetti and meatballs, pasta Milanese, eggplant parmesan, penne with Italian sausage, etc.) Grammy’s mother was born in Sicily and this is the way she taught Grammy who taught her children and now her grandchildren.
2 sweet green bell peppers, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
Medium sized onion, diced
Garlic to taste (Grammy used 3 cloves and it gives a nice mild flavor)
12oz can tomato paste (or 2 6oz cans)
2 boxes chicken stock
1 tsp sugar
2 28oz can crushed tomatoes **
Any herbs your heart desires
Put a heavy-bottom pot on medium heat. Put in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot.
Sauté the veggies until they are mush. I'm telling you, take them beyond anything you’ve ever done to veggies. Cook these puppies like you’re punishing them for talking ugly about the Saints.
Add your garlic. Saute just a minute or so , you don’t want it to burn.
Add the tomato paste. Stir it constantly for 2 minutes. Raw tomato paste is no bueno. Add your stock and stir until it is well incorporated.
Add the sugar and cans of crushed tomatoes. Stir again so that everything gets mixed together.
Cover the pan and walk away. Trust me. Watch some tv. Play with the critters, just don’t take that top off for at least an hour.
After that hour check it every 20-30 minutes, stir the sauce and make sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom. If it starts to burn and stick to the bottom turn the heat down. Cook this way for about an hour (yep, it’s been 2 hours already) then take the top off the pan and cook for another hour with the top off.
Your veggies will literally cook down and you will have a deep red colored, smooth sauce. It’s a thing of beauty and versatility.
Now that you have your base you can add whatever herbs you want. I usually put it in large mason jars (the kind that hold 3 cups of sauce each) and freeze them for later use, the leftovers I use for whatever I’m making that night. You can also add other veggies if you like a chunky sauce but I would never hear of such a thing.
Examples of herb and vegetable combinations I like:
Add chopped or torn basil leaves, sautéed mushrooms and meatballs for spaghetti sauce
Oregano for penne with mild Italian sausage
Rosemary for bread dipping sauce
Thyme for eggplant parmesan
** If you like sweet sauce you can use a can of San Marzano tomatoes; they are by nature sweeter tasting than their regular counterparts.